ragamuffin grace

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Brennan Manning is one of my favorite Christian authors, thinkers…well, he’s one of my favorite Christ-followers, period. The Ragamuffin Gospel is one of my all-time favorite books. I had heard such good things about his new memoir that I couldn’t wait for it to come in at the library. I figured I needed to own it, to mark it up at home, to savor it slowly.

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I started and finished it on a flight from DFW to Dayton. It took me just under two hours. Not because it was bad, but because I just couldn’t stop or slow down. You think you know a lot about someone’s life after you’ve read several of his books, but this one was far more intimate. In retrospect, the plane might have been a bad idea for a reading venue since I was struggling to keep the tears from the college-aged guy next to me who was playing baseball on his iPad. I don’t think he would have understood.

I think the thing that sticks out the most to me from Brennan’s story is just his complete brokenness. Brokenness has definitely been a theme in my life this past year. I know some people who pick a word for the year in January. If I had done that, I wouldn’t have picked brokenness. But that’s my word for the year.

The thing about Christianity is that we’re promised a happy ending. However, we tend to believe that if we’re good Christians, we’ll get that here and now. Brennan’s story would indicate otherwise. We’re taught that the closer we get to God, the better things get. If we follow Christ with all our hearts, souls, minds, lives, then we will obtain victory over all the junk. The fact that Brennan never conquers his alcoholism really upsets the whole apple cart in that respect. For a man to minister to so many people, to preach the gospel of grace so compellingly, to follow Christ virtually his entire life, and still never get victory in this…what does that mean for me? The power of Christ is contrast to the powerlessness of this man over his alcoholism – why??

The beauty, the absolute grace, the part that brings you to your knees in brokenness and praise is Brennan’s testimony that it’s all grace. We’re all broken. We’re all sinners. In Brennan’s words, “These things happen.” We’re worse than we think. We’re forgiven more than we believe. Our sin never is greater than the love of God. Never.

This book, written by a man on his way home, is a testimony to all that matters. I’ll close with his words,

“My life is a witness to vulgar grace – a grace that amazes as it offends…This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.”
Brennan Manning from All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

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